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Monday, 3 July, 2000, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
French passion fits final
France celebrate a dramatic victory over Italy
France celebrate a dramatic victory against Italy
Gerard Houllier reveals exclusively to BBC Sport Online why France were deserved Euro 2000 winners

France may have enjoyed good fortune to emerge triumphant in the Euro 2000 final - but they were worthy winners of a wonderful tournament.

Italy deserve a lot of sympathy because they looked winners in Rotterdam for so long, and then lost in the most dramatic circumstances.

Coach Dino Zoff will also feel the pain of defeat badly, because his team reserved their best performance of the championship for the final.

France, however, were the best team in Euro 2000. Their passion, quality and emotion made them the rightful champions in a tournament that was full of those things.

Francesco Totti in tears of defeat
Francesco Totti in tears of defeat
They characterised all the facets of the tournament that has made it such a great spectacle.

It was not the final many expected, but I felt both France and Italy were finally showing signs of tiredness at the end of a tournament that was a stern test both physically and mentally.

The final opened with real quality, but at the back of the minds of both teams was an understandable fear of losing.

Italy's defence was as good as ever, and France found themselves restricted to chances created by Thierry Henry.

Compact defence

The over-riding strength of Italy's defence, apart from the obvious quality of the players, is that it is so compact.

It ensured France were kept at relatively long range, and this is where the quality of Henry was such a force.

When faced with such a compact defence, the key you need to unlock it is pace and individuality.

France's passion, quality and emotion made them rightful winners

Gerard Houllier
Henry displayed both those things and he really is developing into a wonderful player for France and Arsenal.

He showed the way forward for France early in the second half when he almost created a goal for Zinedine Zidane.

But Italy had an outstanding performer of their own in Francesco Totti, and it was no surprise that he was instrumental in a goal that was beautifully created for Marco Delvecchio.

This presented Italy with the perfect scenario for their mental and tactical approach.

Italy with a 1-0 lead usually means victory, but as I said here before the final, this particular French team has a resilience and belief that survives the adversity of going a goal behind.

Trezeguet fires home the winner
Trezeguet fires home the winner
France dragged themselves back into the game by their teeth, and there was no way they would accept defeat until the final whistle sounded.

Natural finisher

Alessandro Del Piero missed two chances to give Italy the win, but he cannot count great goalscoring among his many qualities, and France stayed in the game.

Roger Lemerre's substitutions were brave, audacious and effective, with Sylvain Wiltord and David Trezeguet making an obvious impact.

I knew Roger would introduce Trezeguet when France went a goal behind, and the effect he had at the end did not surprise me.

Lemerre's substitutions were brave, audacious and effective

Gerard Houllier

David is a player I have worked with, and I regard him as a natural finisher in the mould of my own striker at Liverpool, Robbie Fowler.

He proved that with the winning goal, and it was also a reward for the French coach.

France's heroes were also elsewhere, with Laurent Blanc a brilliant leader of their defence.

Triumphant Rober Lemerre
Triumphant Roger Lemerre
Zinedine Zidane may not have had the effect people were predicting, but again this can be answered by the fact he was up against a team of real quality, and he has also produced so much in the tournament.

It is a great achievement for France to add Euro 2000 to the World Cup, and while I know people may expect me to say this as a Frenchman, I felt the competition got the right winners.

And observing from an impartial point of view, I felt the finish was the crowning moment of a championship that has shown so many wonderful things about football.

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See also:

02 Jul 00 | Euro2000
France win Euro 2000
03 Jul 00 | Fans Guide
Europe belongs to Les Bleus
02 Jul 00 | France
Double delight for France
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